463. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1


  • Your Talk with Abe Feinberg—7:30 p.m. Today2
  • First, he probably wants to discuss our Mid-East aid freeze. After getting a rocket from Eshkol last week, Harman did the rounds, including getting Senator Symington steamed up. As a result, Secretary McNamara took another look at the problem and is considering a formula for moving ahead that he will probably wish to discuss at our Wednesday lunch.

    The Israelis have two concerns: (a) Our freeze is beginning to hurt their production lines. (b) More important, they are deeply suspicious—despite our contrary assurances—that our freezing past aid means we’re going to use it as leverage to force them to terms with the Arabs. They well remember 1956–57 when we froze their assets here and then forced them back to the armistice lines.

    As I understood our discussions, Secretary McNamara’s sole reason for wanting to continue the freeze has been to avoid upsetting his ticklish negotiations on military credit sales in Congress.3 Anything you can say to reassure Abe and quiet Jerusalem’s suspicions will take the heat off you.

    You may want to warn him that we want to go ahead with a few things for moderate Arabs (except Jordan) when we release military shipments for Israel. You believe this is in our national interest—as well as Israel’s—and hope Israel’s friends will agree that this makes sense.

  • Second, Abe may want to support General Weizman’s request for 77 new jet aircraft. Harman told me he hopes you can give Eban an answer on 24 October. Our staffs are working full time on this, but big [Page 885] questions are involved—such as Israel’s nuclear intentions—and we may not want to answer so quickly. While you’ll want to sound sympathetic, I don’t think you’ll want to hem yourself in by promising not to bargain with these planes or raising hopes for an answer on the 24th.
  • Third, he may want to encourage you to stick to your June 19th principles throughout the UN negotiating season. We know (he probably doesn’t) that Hussein, Nasser and the Soviets will soon be trying out on us a revised version of the US-Soviet draft resolutions worked out in July. Since we will be renegotiating language which the Israelis didn’t like to begin with, you may want to pre-empt by assuring him we won’t do anything we don’t honestly believe serves the interest of achieving a permanent peace.
W.W. Rostow4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Saunders File, Middle East, 9/1/67–10/31/67. Secret.
  2. No record of the meeting has been found.
  3. Rostow elaborated on this in a note to the President at 6:50 p.m. that day. It states that McNamara was “most seriously worried about further Soviet penetration of the Middle East via arms” and therefore wanted full Israeli cooperation in going forward when Secretary Rusk thought the time was appropriate with the sale of arms to Israel and moderate Arab countries, including Jordan. Rostow concluded that McNamara wanted Johnson to explain to Feinberg why he needed support for alteration of the Church amendment and support for selling arms to moderate Arabs when this appeared to be in the interest of peace and stability in the area. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.